April 12, 2016

Friday, October 3, 2008

It's Poetry Friday

On with the Poetry Sampler from last week’s Dodge Poetry Festival! Friday afternoon. We are about halfway through a 21 poet, 3 hour sampler. I had to agree with Edward Hirsch, who joked with the audience, “I’m very over stimulated.!” Jane Hirshfield is a longtime Dodge headliner. She has a soothing voice. Her poetry (and manner?) is influenced by her study of Zen. Hirshfield’s calm isn’t lulling – it actually calls you to pay attention to the words. Hirshfield shared a beautiful elegy, “Letter to C,” for poet Czeslaw Milosz’s wife. I was struck by these lines from her poem, “Vilnius,” If you lived higher up on the mountain,
I find myself thinking, what you would see is
more of everything else, but not the mountain. Another Dodge veteran, Sharon Olds, was one of several poets who brought up Pablo Neruda’s “Odes to Simple Things.” She read an ode to toilets. Another: “Ode to a Tampon.” In keeping with the form, she elevated these objects with her choice of language and descriptions. But Olds also had us laughing about our own discomfort with bodily functions.
I begin school poetry residencies talking to children about how all subject matter is fair game in poetry. Olds is a poet who explores the “unmentionable” parts of our existence -- our bodies & how they operate. I’d never heard Ted Kooser read before. He completed his term as U.S. Poet Laureate this summer. People cheered before, during, and after his reading. Kooser read a poem about his mother’s death that made me cry (softie!) In "Pearl," he describes visiting an elderly aunt to deliver the news. In the poem, he knocks on the door and says, “It’s Vera’s boy,” realizing that the death has taken him back to childhood. You can hear Kooser read the poem, “Pearl,” here: Linda Pastan is a fellow Marylander. Her subject matter -- marriage, family, parenting – appeals to me. She read a list poem, “Because.” It describes the reasons why she said “yes” when her husband asked her to marry him. It’s a theme she also explores in “I Married You”: I married you for all the wrong reasons, charmed by your dangerous family history, by the innocent muscles, bulging like hidden weapons under your shirt, by your naive ties, the colors of painted scraps of sunset. Read the rest of Pastan’s poem here: Whew! What a marathon. Poets sometimes say that the Dodge Festival elevates them to rock-star status: the lights, thousands of seats filled with cheering fans. But fame is different for great poets than it is for musicians, actors, athletes. Poets aren’t disposable as they age. If the Dodge crowd is any indication, we want our poets to combine wisdom and a sense of humor about the human experience.
More to come…including What poetry books for kids can you find at the Dodge Poetry Festival’s book tent?
Head over to Two Writing Teachers for more Poetry Friday. They're hosting today:


Andromeda Jazmon said...

One of my dreams that must be realized before I pass over to the other side is to attend the Dodge Poetry Festival. Thanks for giving us the highlights this year!

Author Amok said...

I hope to see you there in 2010. Glad to be able to share the experience with other poetry lovers.